Another "standard" adventure, with no real substance.
Several ideas don't really make sense, and the resolution feels forced.
The only redeeming grace of this rather boring book is the risks it took, and
a couple of mushy emotional scenes.
I hope this is not the beginning of Yuuzhan Vong character
assassination. What R.A. Salvatore did a terrific job of in Vector
Prime, Stackpole degenerates here. The Vong have suddenly become
Klingons, or a combination of Klingons and the Zirzh from Timothy Zhan's
Conqueror's Trilogy. They have rivaling clans, like the Zirzh.
When the one in a superior position fails, the command is given to the next in
charge, for no real good reason. Like Klingons, the superior beats the
subordinate up, even if he offers good advice. If the superior doesn't
want to hear it, he can beat his second in command or can even kill
We get a certain view of the Vong that we haven't had from the previous
books, and it's nice to learn a little more about them. I would now like
to see command from a female Vong point of view. There was a female in
charge of a subgroup in Vector Prime, but she was barely even mentioned. It turns out
that the Vong that appeared in that first New Jedi Order book was a group of
politicians. They took the invasion into their own hands, and
failed. Now, we have the leader of the military arm of the Vong, and by
the end of this book, they have failed, as well. I guess the next step
would be the priests.
Actually, the military is still here, but the leadership is gone.
Shedao Shai is arrogant and, though he is presented as being smart, is
actually pretty stupid. His second in command, Deign Lian, is constantly
plotting against him, and I thought this was the way the New Republic would
win the battle for Ithor. I am glad that I was wrong. Lian is
working for two masters, one of whom appears as a mysterious entity, and I
thought it would turn out to be Nom Anor. Alas, here is another shadowy
character, hiding in the backgrounds. Maybe Tsavong Lah will feature in
As for the New Republic side of things, this book seems to be a mirror of
the previous book, Onslaught. Luke assembles the Jedi, there is a little
bickering from Kyp and his gang, then Luke sends them out on more
reconnaissance missions. There are no complaints, but one Jedi goes off
on her own, looking for superweapons to destroy the Vong with. A Twilek
called Daeshara'cor became incensed that the Vong took slaves, and her mother
was a slave, so she nearly turned to the Dark Side looking for the Emperor's
secret weapons. This is a pretty meaningless plot, as Luke, Mara, Anakin
and a shady privateer Chalco go after her, to the planet Vortex (where Admiral
Ackbar crashed into their Cathedral in Jedi Search), where they meet with Qui
Xux. They then follow her to Garos IV, where she manages to capture
Anakin, but Luke and Chalco save him and recapture the Twilek. Anakin is
supposed to learn some things here, both from Chalco and by saving
Daeshara'cor from the Dark Side, but I think the message got lost, somewhere
along the line.
The real mission here deals with, of course, Corran Horn. He takes
Ganner (whom we met in Onslaught) and Jacen to the planet of
Garqi, to meet
with a local resistance fighter, and to learn more about what the Vong are
Stackpole is good at writing battle scenes, especially in space.
There is a great battle in the skies above Garqi. We see it mostly from
Jaina's point of view as Corran and his companions (including several Noghri) descend.
They hide a ship within a ship, so that the Vong will think they crashed onto
the planet and didn't survive. This doesn't make sense because of the
trail they leave, but the whole Garqi situation didn't really make
sense. The resistance member takes them to a
facility where the Vong have implanted humans and aliens with controlling
devices. It appears that they are testing out the best method of
creating slaves out of the people of this galaxy. Corran has a history
on Garqi, one which I had to search hard to resolve. In two or three
lines scattered through The Krytos Trap, we learn that Corran freed some
slaves here after he fled Corellia and before he joined Rogue Squadron.
One of those prisoners was the mother of the resistance member they meet with.
Corran's reasoning is wrong here, but it gives us a pretty good fight scene
with lightsabers and nasty Vong. The Yuuzhan Vong are nowhere near as
good as they were presented in Vector Prime, of
course. They are barely as good as
the Jedi, and have fewer skills or imagination. Corran doesn't want to
steal the experimental slaves from their barracks, because the Vong would
think the New Republic could develop a cure. So he waits until a hunt,
in which the Vong chase their slaves, and if the slaves act like humans, they
go back and test some more. Corran wants to steal the near-dead bodies
after the hunt,
so that they can develop a cure. The theft would occur in the chaos of
battle, so the Vong wouldn't know they were there until too late.
Huh? When the Vong see the lightsaber slashes, they will know
immediately that their slaves didn't do this. They will know that two
slaves are missing, taken by the Jedi, and they would know the New Republic
would be able to experiment on cures. So what was the point?
Other than a decent lightsaber battle, of course. But it wasn't
really that good, to warrant such strange and convoluted plotting.
The major change in direction of the plot comes about on Garqi,
though. The botanical gardens there have samples of an Ithorian tree,
amongst which the Jedi and Noghri hide from the Vong. And it is within
these trees that they make their last stand. Seven Vong appear, and like
in Star Trek, they only fight one at a time. Ganner strikes out along
with a Noghri, Corran and Jacen, but they all fight one Vong before the next
one joins the fight. Obviously the Vong like to duel, but once the
subordinates saw that this was not going to be a fair fight, wouldn't they
join in? The leader is difficult to take down, but the others don't seem
to be as formidable. And the trees take matters into their own
hands. They secrete a pollen to which the Vong living armor is
allergic! The armor swells up and dies, choking the life from the
Whenever an author tells us that a character knows he is going to die here,
we know it isn't true. So why do authors still use that tactic? I
had doubts that Corran was going to survive the book, but I knew that if he
died, it wouldn't be until the very end. Of course, Chewie didn't die at
the end of Vector Prime, so what does that prove?
Corran and company burn the gardens to the ground, but they know that the
Vong will figure out that the Ithorian trees killed their men, and that they
will invade Ithor next to eliminate the threat. So they, along with a
small fleet from the Imperial Remnant (!) and more ships from the New
Republic, go to Ithor's defense.
Leia managed to convince Admiral Pellaeon and his Moffs that the Yuuzhan
Vong threat was real, and though they both have to fight political battles,
they manage to get through it. This was yet another mirror moment from Onslaught,
as she uses Danni Quee as proof that she isn't making up propaganda. I liked the friendship that developed
between Admirals Pellaeon and Kre'fey. They were military leaders who
knew what they were up against, and were able to develop new tactics on the
We get a brief battle in the skies of Ithor, but when Kre'fey figures out
how to defeat the Vong ships (rather easily, I think, again compared to Vector
Prime, regardless of what tactics have changed since then), Deign Lian goes to
the other side of the planet to regroup.
For Shedao Shai has a grudge against Corran. The Jedi had slain two
of Shai's kinsmen in the last book, and took the bones of his blessed
ancestor. So he kills Elegos (whom I figured out became a friend of
Corran's during his stint with the pirates in I, Jedi), the senator who tried
to find a way to exchange information between the New Republic and the Vong,
and to try and create peace. The scene where Corran finds out that
Elegos was killed was not a shock to me, as I figured out what was going to
happen immediately when Shai said he would send Elegos back "with a
Shedao Shai descends to Ithor's surface, and his troops are tricked by a
technological shelter that the Jedi set up in preparation for the
attack. It blows up, taking many Vong with it as they are trying to beat
the "travesty" to pieces. I liked the fact that they were so
caught up in their hatred of technology that they couldn't see the trap.
Others board the
herd ship Tafanda Bay, and are repulsed by the Jedi on that ship. Anakin
is unable to save Daeshara'cor from the Vong, but she teaches him that Chewie
might not have hated him for leaving him. Jaina gets the same message as
her wingman is killed in the sky battle.
Corran calls for a truce and challenges Shai to one-on-one battle, which he
wins using a tactic he demonstrated to Luke and Mara at the beginning of the
book. As agreed, the Vong leave Ithor's surface, but Lian infects it
with a biological agent that sterilizes the planet. I didn't like the
description of the destructive agent, but I did feel the pall that was cast
over the New Republic as Ithor died. This was a major planet in the New
Republic, and one that was full of life, and radiated peace!
Ithor's death is blamed, of course, on Corran. Never mind that if he
hadn't managed to call the week-long truce, they never would have been able to
evacuate the entire planet. No Ithorians were killed by the war.
But their Sacred Mother Jungle was destroyed. Fortunately, people like
Mirax were able to take samples of many forms of life (including the pollen
plant), but it will take years, generations maybe, before they can even get a small
forest out of any of it.
On the face of it, Corran's deal doesn't make sense, because the prize is
the bones for Shedao Shai, or Ithor if Corran wins. But we know that the
Vong will eventually take Ithor anyway, even if Corran wins. But Corran
doesn't really believe the Vong will accept his word. He is fighting for
the one week truce, to save as many lives as possible. Ithor could be
considered dead as soon as the Vong landed on its surface.
So now, by the very last pages, Borsk Fey'lya has stirred up anti-Jedi
sentiment, in blaming Corran for the destruction of Ithor, and Luke must also
disown Corran, because it is the only way the Jedi cannot fall from public
grace. This, I don't believe, either, because they would simply blame
Luke for not controlling his Jedi, and this would lead to more anti-Jedi
Luke has turned into a spineless sap in this book. Every time somebody
challenges him, he backs away from responsibility. He tells Corran that
he doesn't think the duel is a good idea, but even when Pellaeon and Kre'fey
tell him they would not allow one of their officers to do this, he bows to
Corran's wishes, and stands at his side. Then, when Corran tells him he
will go back to Corellia and that Luke must disown him as a Jedi, he acquiesces
to this, too! Luke would always find a better way.
I wonder if this will push Jacen beyond the point where he want to leave
the Jedi, too. He is against everything that happens here, but is swept
up in it all. I think it's about time he goes off on his own to figure
out who he is.
There is a small political ceremony before the battle for Ithor took place,
and I'm not sure how to interpret it. The Chiss arrived at Garqi to help
Corran get away from there. These are Thrawn's people, who showed up in
Vision of the Future. Apparently, they have dealt with the threat
presented from the Unknown Regions that they told Luke and Mara about, and are
now ready to help out. They are led by Jagged Fel (what kind of name is
that?), and it is immediately clear that Jaina has a crush on this hot pilot
(hot in more ways than one, of course). Is this setup for another
book? Or will he disappear from the Star Wars Universe after
Michael Stackpole has written a lot of great books in the Star Wars
Universe. From the Rogue Squadron books to
I, Jedi and all those comics,
many have been great, and others have been mediocre. Like Kevin J.
Anderson and Timothy Zahn, I think it's time he retired from this
Universe. His books are getting repetitive, and he has to invoke some
strange logic and bend the characters to fit the plot and make the book get to
where he wants it. In his last novel for Star Wars, Isard's
found he started to lose his grip. Here, in this Duology, I think he
should let go before he loses his grip altogether.
I was ready to give this book a single star, but there were just barely
enough good moments to bring it up. The friendship between Pellaeon and
Kre'Fey was one such moment. The death of Ithor, although I didn't like
the way it was written, in narrator form, was another, because it was so
haunting. There were some good moments between lovers, Mirax and Corran,
and Luke and Mara, that also contributed to the good side of the scale.
And I have to mention the space battles. They were a little too
technical, and he seemed to focus more on giving the new starships slang pilot
terms than the real battle, but they were still well written. I would
like him to stop writing about the Force, because he doesn't treat it as in
the movies, more like magic.
I hope the New Jedi Order can improve from here. What this Duology showed was that the Vong are a real threat. The whole galaxy now knows
this. I hope their Klingon-like nature is just this author's way of
portraying them, and that we will see different portrayals in future
books. We have more and more anti-Jedi sentiment, which should build
some tension in the future. I wonder if Kyp will split from Luke's
Academy officially down the line. Ganner has learned a lesson, and has
the scar to prove it, and has
distanced himself from Kyp, but I wonder what it will take to show Kyp the
way... Jaina didn't do much in this book, but Jacen and Anakin did grow
a bit, and it will be interesting to see in which directions they grow. Until